Posts from 14th May 2004

14
May 04

As a former maths teacher (briefly), you can imagine how impressed I am with

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 468 views

As a former maths teacher (briefly), you can imagine how impressed I am with this woman’s teaching. (Brought to my attention by Anthony Easton.)

Tanya’s Round of Rubbish: Pub Rock

I Hate MusicPost a comment • 456 views

My quest to rid the world of music is occasionally a lonely one. But there are some issues on which I feel I am well-supported. Pub rock is one of these. Let us be frank: nobody except the truly feebleminded has ever, once, drawn a second’s pleasure from going into a pub and hearing live music. On the music food chain the ‘pub circuit’ might as well be the ‘plankton circuit’. The promise – to the naive music fan – is a seductive one. Live pub music offers the opportunity to discover raw talent at the very beginning of its career, in intimate venues, playing real music with real passion. And if you believe that, could I perhaps introduce you to the Nigerian Finance Minister?

The people who play the pub circuit are raw only in the sense that consuming them might well make you very ill. As for being at the dawn of their career – surely you jest. They are more often than not leathery old giffers whose years on the circuit have made them look even more wizened (one pub year = four human years). They are also to a man ugly as a dog’s arse. Let me explain a great pop myth here, that musicians are sexy. Men become musicians in order to attract women. Ergo they cannot have been that attractive to begin with. And twenty years slowly pickling in pubs don’t do much for your skin tone.

Most of these men have, shall we say, not enjoyed the financial success they hoped for. Many of them have had to sell their instruments and even their drummer – only this can explain the prominence of the cheap synthesiser and backing tape in pub music. The sight of a ‘turn’ backed up by one of these devices is one of the world’s most pitiful. And the music they play? More than likely blues, or a kind of listless, endless plodding facsimile thereof. It’s more Sleepin’ Dog than Howlin’ Wolf, except that the people who play it never, ever let it lie.

So much for ‘rock in pubs’. Now imagine a genre where such a thing was not the end result of a life’s shattered dreams but was instead the height of a man’s ambition. Such a genre was Pub Rock. Even in the shit world of shit music pub rock is known for being shit. Which is quite a feat when you think about it. House, garage – these are boring places to be, as opposed to the pub which is a great place – but even so pub rock tempts nobody, and attempts to revive it have been met with embarrassed laughter.

THe pub rock bands had given up at the very first hurdle – even their names are universally shit. What does the name Ducks Deluxe tell you? Or – ye gods – Sniff’N The Tears? It tells you “We are no good. We will make no attempts to be good. We have no imagination. The most anyone will be able to say for us is that we were a good laugh.” The whole sorry enterprise is summed up by its biggest hit – “Milk And Alcohol” by Dr.Feelgood. Milk + Alcohol? That means Bailey’s if you ask me. Which, like pub rock, is very hard to stomach.

The Saddest Music In The World is not a Leonard Cohen biopic

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The Saddest Music In The World is not a Leonard Cohen biopic, but despite that (or probably because of it) it manages to be a whole mess of fun. The plot? The literally legless Isabella Rosellini is running a saddest music in the world contest at her brewery in Winnipeg. She is sad since her legs were amputated by a pissed bloke who fancied her. His son, who she really fancied, pitches up to represent the US. His depressive brother represents Serbia, hounded by the death of his son and his missing wife (who appears to be his brother beau). Their father, the drunken doctor, represents Canada and trying to atone to his hacksaw victim he makes the brewery queen a pair of glass legs full of beer.

There is your set up, I will not spoil what actually happens. Suffice to say you get some wonderful musical battles (Tibet vs Mexico is the best), and some wonderfully silly moments. That this has been shot to look liek a faded 1930’s musical adds to the fun. Really silly, but oddly moving in places, the film has ideas to spare. My favourite bits were the prize for the winner, riding down a slide into a bath of beer. And the comentators on the competition: bitchy, ill-informed, kind of like Terry Wogan in full Eurovision mode but talking over the music. The first World Music, 1930’s musical? Oh yes.

FICTIONAL FOOD EATEN IN CHILDRENS BOOKS #2: Toffee Trees

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FICTIONAL FOOD EATEN IN CHILDRENS BOOKS #2: Toffee Trees

In The Magician’s Nephew, Digory plants a toffee which in the enchanted soil of Narnia grows overnight into a toffee-tree. “The fruit was delicious; not exactly like toffee?softer for one thing, and juicy?but like fruit that reminded one of toffee.” The brief but pleasant feasts in Narnia page has further details of this tree (which I found mouthwatering when young) and also emphasises how good CS Lewis was at describing hearty nosh.

Also prominent in the Narnia books is Turkish Delight – the sweet which the White Witch uses to ensnare Edmund. I was unsympathetic as I associated Turkish Delight with the rose-perfumed stuff that gets brought out every Christmas and couldnt quite understand why Edmund had been such a gannet for it. However now I know – it was not turkish delight AT ALL, it was MARIJUANA! This remarkable page will set you straight. Indeed exploring the entire Lewis section of the site is recommended – my favourite bit is this: “The word “ass” appears in 4 of the books. Being British, it probably did not mean the same to him as it does to Americans (as a swear word), but he could have left it out, especially since he only used it four times and did use “donkey” in other places. However, considering the filthy state of his mind, it is possible that he thought this cute.”

FOODS EATEN IN CHILDRENS’ BOOKS #3: Ginger Beer

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 409 views

FOODS EATEN IN CHILDRENS’ BOOKS #3: Ginger Beer

Lashings. Of course.

Drinks in childrens books, especially those of an ealier age, show an almost slavish fetishisation of fizzy drinks. Birthday parties when presented in Blyton were always accompanied with plenty of “pop”, a name my grandparents but not my parents would use for fizzy drinks. For my grandparents pop also came in a tin, rather than a can, but I am willing to believe this is a family anachronism. I think placing a drink merely because of its fizz on a pedastal is a surprisingly British thing, a childs version of class warfare was almost certainly being played out in those glass Corona bottles. And woe betide if the warfare got fizzical…

So the Famous Five are famous not just for their fiveness but for their favourite drink. Properly brewed ginger beer is naturally slightly carbonated. However I am sure that the lemonade they would occasionally drink was not of the freshly squeezed variety, rather the strange clear chemical gunk you can still buy for 20p for 2 litres in Safeways. The pop occasioned the odd plot point too, it was so important. Despite Blyton being the queen of decorum, a number of times in her million books a stray ginger beer related burp caused discovery by the bad guys. But rarely any actual lashings.

Blogpulse promises much

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 333 views

Blogpulse promises much but I’m not sure how well it delivers. “The one-click answer to the question ‘What’s the buzz?'” says Blogpulse’s trends page. I am not sure that a blog aggregator is needed to tell you that an international news trend is ‘Israel Vs Palestine’. Similarly, we learn that “the buzz” in Economics is “Inflation and GDP”. Blimey! I’ll stick with Technorati for now, ta.

When is a game not a game?

Do You SeePost a comment • 182 views

When is a game not a game? I flicked through the new Edge on the way home yesterday with growing unease. EyeToy up for an award – fair do’s, it’s a great idea and well executed. Glowing review for karaoke game Singstar? Hmmm. News item on new virtual punching glove and a measurement device for computerising your real golf swing? HOLD ON A MINUTE.

Computer games have traditionally thrived on simulating things that we couch potatoes can’t actually do in real life. In order to run the actual 400 metres you need rather more than two fingers. This is as it should be. I am rubbish at golf and would find real golf a tiresome, frustrating and humiliating business. Computer golf is a great deal easier, an advantage which is suddenly removed if you have to grip and swing a real actual golf club – a crucial barrier of non-realism has vanished. To put my argument in a nutshell: if the skills you need for the computer game are the skills you need for the real life game then why not just do it in real life?

EyeToy avoids this by asking you to use the same skills you’ve built up via playing ordinary games – you react with your hands to stuff you see on a screen. So it’s all great fun. Rhythm Action games work along similar lines. The success of both though has brought the much-maligned peripheral back into sharp focus, and boxing and golfing body simulators are surely just the beginning. The idea is to tap into a party gaming market – but from my experience once you’ve played EyeToy at one party you’ve played it at all of them. For solo play the crucial immersion factor is likely to be lessened by the ‘feeling like a nob’ factor of standing in your living room gripping an invisible club.

SingStar meanwhile has more serious problems. By rating its players solely on pitch and timing it completely misses the point of karaoke, at least as practised in the UK. It’s not about singing well. It’s about a convincing, and hopefully entertaining performance. We’ve all sat cursing into our cocktails when someone gets up and does a note-perfect version of some drab ballad or other, to respectful but unenthused applause. This is the kind of thing SingStar is encouraging and this is why it deserves to flop (though it surely won’t).

QUESTION:

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QUESTION: Is the decision to play the title decider of the Women’s Football League between Arsenal and Fulham at Highbury after the Arsenal Men’s Team play and receive the Premiership Trophy:

a) A great idea to promote the women’s game, the great year Arsenal Ladies have had and a fitting showpiece to display how the women’s game has come on in leaps and bounds
b) Patronising to suggest that the game would not get a decent audience all by itself, and highlighting that the policy of shunting the ladies off to Barnet to play regularly denigrates them as a second class attraction
c) CHEATING! If they win, they get the league (and cup double). Having a potential crowd of thrity thousand at their backs would almost treble the current recod for attendence for a modern ladies game. Pity poor Fulham and Charlton to be placed against this.

The only relevant news item

FT + New York London Paris Munich2 comments • 270 views

The only relevant news item in this week’s Marketing was the sad decision of Bodyform to finally discard the “Whoa Bodyform” music from their adverts, which will apparently be speech-based in future. One research study claimed it to be the most-heard piece of music in Britain in the 90s, but the Bodyform song has never seen single release or been credited to any artist. (Though one website claims it is an adaptation of a Heart song). In fact there is no evidence that the rest of the song even exists beyond the classic “Bodyform for you” refrain – even so that is no reason not to mourn the passing of a genuinely iconic piece of musical art.

Scrabble Tournament: The Head of Steam, London, 9 May

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Scrabble Tournament: The Head of Steam, London, 9 May

Hello you! The T.M.F.D current Scrabble Champion here, reporting back. Yes, I won the tournament, but I’m not boasting, am I? Me? As if! Either way, I drew three games, each against some very strong opponents, and finally clinched the last game by a few points. I should have won by more, but played a STINKER of a phony without thinking it through. I played BOOTINGS through an existing O – it quite RIGHTLY got challenged off, and two seconds later I spotted the obvious all-out play of BOOSTING. Argh! The spot to play BOOSTING was promptly blocked off by Donkey, and the board became as closed as the wardrobe to Narnia.

For your information, dear reader(s), here is a snapshot of the the finals board. I’m particularly proud of DRAGOON, my opening move. My only other all out play was ETESIAn, down at the bottom. On saying that, I think Donkey’s hard to spot move of CRIMINAL deserves a lot of applause, I very much doubt I would have seen that.

finals

Marvellous! But is it as marvellous as the time I played GOTHS down triple number one, and then managed to form VISIGOTHS a few goes later on the other triple??

Triple Triple!

Exxxxcellent. Seasoned Scrabblers will note that I’m deliberately trying to avoid using the American term of “bingo” to refer to an occasion where one plays out all seven tiles. Aren’t I doing well? Well, not really, as last night I played HOSTER (with an I on my rack, too insane to spot HOISTER), but at least then I managed another one, which I have conveniently forgotten. I blame the new Cappuccino Kit Kat Kubes (review coming soon to Publog!) that we were scoffing during aforesaid game. Ooh aye.